Postpartum (or Perinatal) Mood Disorders are medically-based illnesses, correlated with underlying brain chemical and hormonal imbalances. They manifest in many forms, but their variations, symptom profile, risk factors, prognosis, and treatment are becoming better understood by researchers and clinicians.
In addition to physiological, hormonal, and physical changes in the body during labor and following birth, there are enormous emotional, social, relational, and environmental changes for the woman and her partner. Some women are more sensitive to these changes and new stressors, or are in particularly difficult or overwhelming circumstances.
In many cases, PPMD can be immediately eased by appropriate support and simple changes in the environment. In other cases, there is a protracted period of distress that requires more concerted therapy and treatment.
In most cases, a skilled and sensitive maternal caregiver is a vital part of the recovery process
In the immediate postpartum period, women need a safe, uninterrupted, and restful environment to “take in” their baby, to recuperate from the birth, to regain their strength, and to emotionally reorganize with their partner into their new roles as parents. In today’s stressful society, and also due to often inadequate maternal and family leave policies, this need is rarely fulfilled.
Modern postpartum practices can draw from the wisdom of earlier times and other cultures—mother and baby were often lovingly tended to for weeks by trusted female relatives and extended family, enabling both mother and infant to build secure attachments and healthy beginnings.
In many countries, caregivers come to the home to help a new mother and her family adjust and flourish after the birth. They may have various skills and be referred to by different names: i.e. visiting nurse, mother assistant, doula, etc. In the United States, women called Postpartum Doulas provide this service.